June 18, 2019 – Palo Alto Matters
On June 24, City Council is set to change the underlying zoning district and authorize demolition of the former Ming’s Restaurant and current Audi Dealership (located at 1700 and 1730 Embarcadero Road) to allow construction of a new two-story 84,900 square foot combined Mercedes/Audi auto dealership. The proposed project offers potential to increase the city’s sales tax revenues, but has traveled a bumpy road through the city’s commission review process.
On March 27 after lengthy deliberations, the Planning and Transportation Commission narrowly recommended approval of the project on a 4-3 vote (Lauing, Summa, Templeton dissenting). Cited concerns included ecological and traffic impacts due to proximity to the Baylands and the badly congested intersection of Embarcadero and East Bayshore Roads. In addition, multiple commissioners found the project incompatible with other development in the area and objected to the extension of perceived “spot zoning” at the Ming’s site (to accommodate a hotel that never came to fruition) to the adjacent Audi parcel.
The Architectural Review Board, despite having held three hearings on the project, has not yet offered a recommendation for approval and as recently as June 6 was unable to make a number of required “Findings” that would be necessary for an affirmative recommendation. Staff asserts that the ARB’s outstanding concerns do not have a significant impact on the overall building mass or design. Therefore, in the interest of streamlined review, staff has opted to advance the project to City Council with a condition of approval that would require return to the ARB to resolve the outstanding issues after council takes action on the application.